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DIYers need to get the facts before picking up the tools

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A retired grandmother of three diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos more than 30 years ago has urged Australian homeowners to know exactly what they are working with before getting stuck into renovations. 

74 year old Audrey Albinger, from Tolland, was exposed to asbestos more than 30 year ago while the home she lived in with her husband and four children in Redcliffe, Queensland was being extended.

Ms Albinger said while the tradesmen were working outside, she was continuously vacuuming and cleaning up, with dust infiltrating her home.

“Dust was constantly blowing around while the tradesmen were working. It would come into the house from the back door and open windows and was thick enough that I could see it settle on the furniture,” Ms Albinger said.

“The tradesmen themselves were not wearing protective equipment, so it never entered my mind that the substance was affecting my health.

“Before my diagnosis, I was fit and active, walking long distances each day and swimming laps in the warmer months.

“My physical activities have been significantly reduced since the diagnosis, but I am focused on what is really important and that is spending time with my family and friends.” 

Slater and Gordon Sydney lawyer Jessica Mackenzie said research commissioned by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) found an increased number of DIY renovators do not feel they are informed enough about asbestos.

“While the number of homes requiring asbestos removal has risen over the past two years, it is alarming to see that just over half (53%) of DIYers feel confident about their knowledge of the substance,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“The research also found 47% of DIYers do not conduct a risk assessment for asbestos before renovating, indicating a reluctance to engage specialist services.”

Ms Mackenzie said even short term exposure to asbestos could cause a life-threatening illness.

“As the weather heats up and DIY renovation shows inspire us to restore our houses to their former glory, it is easy to underestimate the health and safety risks involved, particularly when it comes to asbestos.”

“Just like the contestants on the Block and other renovation shows, it is important to call in the experts and get an asbestos assessment before undertaking any manual work.

“While DIY renovations are usually undertaken in an effort to lower the cost, it is important to remember that health and safety is not something you can put a price tag on.”